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Reviews of Napoleon in Egypt: Al-Jabarti’s Chronicle of the French Occupation of 1798 (Expanded Edition)

“[Al-Jabarti] resents the French invasion, ridicules their claim to be a defender of the faith, rejects their belief in liberty and equality, [and] despises their lack of morality and personal hygiene, but approves their efficiency, common loyalty and cooperation, and wonders at their technical and scholarly abilities. There was much he admired in these uncouth barbarians who even had a translation of the Koran in their luggage … Al-Jabarti’s work has been a treasure house … Moreh’s editing and translating can serve as a model to other scholars.” — Journal of the American Oriental Society

“Superlative translation … excellent commentaries … witty illustrations … exactly the right length for classroom use … inexpensive.” — World History Bulletin

“This book makes more readily available the translation of a work by Jabarti that Shmuel Moreh published along with the Arabic text in 1975. Napoleon in Egypt is not a selection from Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti’s famous chronicle, Aja’ib al-Athar fi-l-Tarajim wa-l-Akhbar; it comes instead from an earlier manuscript covering only the first seven months of the French occupation, from July to December 1798. Moreh’s translation is scholarly and reads well. Tignor’s introduction sets Jabarti’s account in historical context; a selection from the memoirs of Bonaparte’s personal secretary De Bourrienne provides a French view of the period, and a passage from Edward Said’s Orientalism (New York: Random House, 1978) interprets the expedition and its encyclopedic Description de l’Égypte as opening the door to European domination. Well-chosen contemporary European illustrations enhance the book.

“As Tignor points out, comparable written accounts from the viewpoint of the vanquished are lacking for the Americas, and sub-Saharan African viewpoints on late–nineteenth-century European conquests have survived mostly as oral history.

“Covering only the first sixth of the three-year French occupation, this account gives the freshness of immediacy to the events it describes. The central themes of the Franco-Egyptian encounter are here: the French defeat of the Mamluk army, Britain’s trapping of the expedition by destroying its fleet, Bonaparte’s efforts to win the cooperation of the ulema in governing Egypt, Egyptian reactions to the expedition’s research institute, the burden of French exactions and atrocities, and the first revolt of Cairo.” — International Journal of African Historical Studies